MLB Players and Employees to Participate in Coronavirus Study

Major League Baseball halted spring training and postponed its opening day on March 12 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The league was originally scheduled to begin on March 26, but all games were pushed to an undetermined later date. Now MLB is taking part in a massive coronavirus study.

According to ESPN, 27 of the 30 teams will be taking part in a study run by Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL). There will be up to 10,000 people tested for coronavirus antibodies through the use of test kits that "draw blood via pinprick and offer results within 10 minutes." The purpose is to determine the prevalence of an antibody known as IgM, which surfaced early among those that were infected by the coronavirus. Additionally, the kits will detect a second form known as IgG, which lasts after the infection occurs.

If the players, coaches or staff members have these antibodies in their systems, they could be confirmed as having the coronavirus despite not previously showing symptoms. The goal is to get a sense of the true infection rate. Having a nationwide sample will help achieve this goal.

"This is the first study of national scope where we're going to get a read on a large number of communities throughout the United States to understand how extensive the spread of the virus has been," said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University. "This will be the very first of those. Why MLB versus other employers? I've reached out to others, but MLB moved by far the fastest. They've been enormously cooperative and flexible. We're trying to set up a scientific study that would normally take years to set up, and it's going to be a matter of weeks."

According to Dr. Daniel Eichner, the president of SMRTL, the tests used for this massive study are not the same as those being used in hospitals around the world. These are tests that can be done at home by participants or at team-run testing sites. Although doctors hope that they will become more prevalent in the coming weeks.

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"MLB did not partner with us for any selfish reason to get their sport back sooner," Eichner said. "They jumped in for public health policy. That was their intention and their only intention." He revealed that he had approached the league in order to hopefully provide politicians with a clearer sense of when the country might be able to reopen. MLB is not being compensated for participating in the study.

Players that opt to participate in the study will have to complete a survey. They will be asked about their sex, age, ZIP code, ethnicity, recent behavior and social activity, contact with COVID-19-positive patients, recent ailments, COVID-19 testing status, pre-existing conditions and whether they smoke. The players have not been required to participate, but their teams have suggested that they do so.